When I first started out in this business, I was working my butt off. I would work long hours and I didn't really have that much to show for it. But I was determined to make things easier for myself, and make more money in the process. This is where the saying "Work Smarter, not Harder" hit me like a ton of bricks. I started talking to other affiliate friends who were doing the same type of work I was, but hardly working at all - they pretty much had their sites automated.
At first I thought I couldn't do that because of so many things I didn't know - programming (PHP, MySQL, etc), how to use datafeeds, etc. Slowly I started to do little things that set everything in motion.
I tried to learn more about datafeeds, and was discouraged to find out that my merchant's datafeeds didn't have all the information I needed for my site. So then I ran across a nice little program where I could create my own spider to gather the information I needed from my merchants site, and it would put the information into a table. But then I realized I didn't know how to program the darn thing...so I took the time to learn. Surprisingly it wasn't that hard. After a few weeks, and several emails back and forth to support, I was well on my way.
So now I have these little spiders set up that would gather my information for me. This saved me a TON of time of not having to actually go to the merchant site to get my data. This worked great for about a week - then as I added more products, I realized that I wouldn't be able to do this forever, because even though that part was automated, I still had to go in and manually update my site, which still took a lot of time.
So then I hired a programmer to help me out, and explained what I wanted to do. We took the table that my spiders created and compared it to another table that the programmer made for me that listed all my products. Basically it's a simple script that compares the tables, automatically makes the changes to my site, and emails me if anything was changed. I also have it setup so it doesn't automatically change everything in case one of my spiders messes up. I put this puppy in a cron job and it runs every hour, along with my spiders.
So now I sit back and enjoy life while my website takes care of itself. Now that it's automated, it's more up-to-date than I could physically do it myself and I'm also making a lot more money because I was able to add a lot more products.
This is why I say working smarter (a.k.a. hardly working) is better than working harder. I've done both, and working smarter makes me more money, and gives me more time to do whatever else I want. I do realize that there are times that you work hard, but it doesn't always have to be that way.